Joel’s newsletter on What Is Creative Thinking, September 9, 2009
An ezine about Creative thinking, Coaching, and Making a difference
While my wife and I were visiting cousins in Denver CO over Labor Day weekend, we stopped at the Denver Art Museum. It had a very unusual architecture, the most noticeable feature being a sharp angular structure jutting over the street. There were more unconventional angles as you walked inside. On the walls of the atrium I saw randomly placed circles, each containing a bluish number. These were actually LED lights, which number displayed digits from 1 to 9. The numbers were placed at different angles, and some of them counted up or down at various speeds. The placard explained that a Japanese artist, Tatsuo Miyajima, designed the exhibit, and he based the numbers and timing on 4-digit sequences chosen by various contributors.
So what is all that about? That's a question I had. The combination of random circles, angles, and changing digits was certainly different from anything I'd seen before. You could say that the exhibit was quite creative. But somehow something seemed lacking. What is it for, really? Is this exhibit an example of creative thinking? These questions made me wonder, what is creative thinking after all? Does it mean being different just to be different? Or is there more to it?
Because of my interest in creativity, I've often tried to come up with a definition as an answer to the question what is creative thinking. I like to say it is thinking beyond the usual patterns of thought, or what is often called "thinking outside the box". But there are many ways to think outside the box. Some creations have a definite value and useful purpose. Other ways may be interesting, but without practical value. Still others may appear random, bizarre, or even nonsensical. In general I believe that there is merit to thinking creatively with a purpose. So I would tend to be drawn more to creative ideas that had some real value.
Now I don't mean to judge the exhibit with the randomly changing numbers as being meaningless. It's just that it didn't grab me. I felt that something was missing. Perhaps there was a meaning to it that I wasn't aware of. Maybe it was meant to make observers ask questions, as it did for me. (Apparently Tatsuo Miyajima did have something in mind, which you can read about here.)
It's not easy to define creativity and value in black and white. What is creative thinking to one person may be considered commonplace to someone else. What may be valuable to one may be useless or even nonsense to another.
In general I find that limited thinking (or thinking inside the box) is far too prevalent. So I would encourage novel, or even outrageous ideas to stimulate creative thinking. It can be an effort just to get out of the mental ruts that we are normally stuck in, often without realizing we're in them. Anything that helps us break out of our rut could be of benefit. But that's not the end of it all. Ultimately we want to provide real value; something that people really appreciate and find useful.
Sometimes ideas which at first seem totally ridiculous or useless can stimulate further "out of the box" thinking. They are like stepping stones, not ends in themselves. So such ideas do have their place. Their value lies not so much in their immediate usefulness, but in what they might lead to down the road.
On the other hand, if you try to be different just for the sake of being different, is there any value in that? I believe that's an important question to ask. I see examples all around, in art, entertainment, design, that make me wonder, what's the point? It's difficult not to be judgmental when something doesn't seem to make sense, but it's good to ask questions and to consider where the value, if any, might possibly lie.
Getting back to the question what is creative thinking and the unusual exhibit in the Denver museum, the bottom line for me is - I wouldn't have put up money toward building it. But apparently other people did! Maybe the novel design, with its strange angles and numbers will inspire somebody to be creative in a totally new way. Who knows?
I encourage you to respond with your thoughts about what is creative thinking and its value, and I'll include them next week! See below.
Creative thinking tip
Let go of judgment. Try to avoid judgment when something appears different or not to your liking. Judgment is simply classifying situations as good or bad, right or wrong, better or worse. We all tend to do that to some extent, pretty much automatically. The problem is that, when we judge, we close doors, and that limits our thinking. It can be difficult to give up judging altogether, but any step in that direction is worth the effort.
Suppose you were listening to a speaker and judging every sentence as right or wrong. You wouldn't be very open to the real significance of the ideas being discussed. On the other hand, if you simply accept the ideas as they are presented, you might find new meanings and possibilities that you hadn't thought of before.
Or, if you met someone at a party and were very judgmental about their style of dress, you probably wouldn't be open to hearing what they had to say in the first place.
By the way, there is a difference between being judgmental, having preferences, and making observations and distinctions. The important question to ask is - are you closing a door in your mind or keeping it open?
A Life Coach aspires to listen without judgment. That can be an incredibly freeing experience. Find out what's it like by contacting Coach Joel at 973-701-1007 or firstname.lastname@example.org . What are your thoughts?
What are your thoughts about creativity and value? Send me your ideas and I'll include them in the next issue. Please let me know how you want your name to appear, or if you wish to remain anonymous. Thanks!
Quote of the week
"We live at a time when man believes himself fabulously capable of creation, but he does not know what to create." - José Ortega y Gasset
This quote brings up an interesting question. What is worth creating? There can be a certain satisfaction in the process of creating itself, but does it matter what we make? To me it raises the question of values. I believe that if we know our true values and tie our creative ability to those, then that will bring us the greatest reward and deepest satisfaction.
This newsletter is written by Joel Remde, to receive this newsletter via email contact email@example.com. I welcome your comments and feedback; that will help me learn what you’re interested in and also make this a better newsletter.
Learn more about The Creative Thinking Coach at www.coachjoel.com
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